It’s a funny thing about the success of Obama’s branding that he’s never described as a “politician.” How can one describe the Messiah as a politician? But with Obama’s wholesale abandonment of hope and change, the layers of Messiah are being peeled away until we find underneath a damn good politician. With all the good and bad that implies.
Obama the politician was supremely on display Monday during his appearance at a “town hall” on CNBC. I heard one “average” person who was interviewed on the network afterward saying he was reassured about how reasonable and rational Obama sounded, and he now felt more optimistic.
Well, sounding reasonable and pleasant it what good politicians do. They make you think you share their views and that they’re doing the right thing.
Let’s look at Obama the Politician on display yesterday. He followed several of the profession’s most notable rules with practiced perfection.
1. Blame someone else for your mistakes and troubles.
Obama did this right out of the gate, making sure everyone knows that the still sucky economy is not his fault. Here’s what he said.
The challenge is, is that the hole was so deep that a lot of people out there are still hurting, and probably some folks here in the audience are still having a tough time.
Bush dug the hole so deep, it’s not surprising we’re still in a hole, get it, buster? Obama does this at almost every appearance he makes. He believes, as Truman did, that “the buck stops here.” It’s just that he differs on the definition of “here.” In this case, it’s “over there.”
2. Shade the truth.
A time honored tradition and a rule avidly followed to greater and lesser extents by all politicians.
We haven’t increased taxes on businesses. Actually, we have instituted about 50 tax cuts, many of them going to businesses, large and small.
Well, not exactly. The health care bill will eventually place new taxes on tanning salons and insurers who offer expensive health plans. And business with more than 50 employees who do not provide health insurance will have to pay a “fine” of $2,000 per employee. When you pay a “fine” to the federal government, kind of feels like a tax, doesn’t it?
But Obama also leaves out that he sure wants to raise taxes on business. Successful small businesses that file like individuals will get hit if his plan to raise taxes for the highest brackets is adopted. Plus he wants to increase taxes on dividends, which is indirectly harmful to business.
He added that he “would love to” give tax cuts to the rich if the country could afford it. If he really would “love to,” then how is he going to spread their wealth around?
3. Say different things to different audiences, based on what you think they want to hear.
This is what he said to the business types at the CNBC event.
Oftentimes there’s this response that somehow these modest reforms that make the free market work better for consumers and for workers as well as for businesses, on the front end, are resisted.
This is what he said to a bunch of rich Hollywood types during a fundraising appearance out in L.A. last month.
We have been able to deliver the most progressive legislative agenda – one that helps working families – not just in one generation, maybe two, maybe three.
So we’re gettiong “modest reforms” that are also the most progressive since Franklin Roosevelt. Get it? I sure don’t.
4. Pretend you’re the good guy.
Here is what Obama said yesterday on the benefits of changing the “tone” in Washington.
The rhetoric and the politicizing of so many decisions that are out there has to be toned down. We’ve got to get back to working together. And my hope is — and this is part of my job as leader. It’s not just a matter of implementing good policies, but also setting a better tone so that everybody feels like we can start cooperating again, instead of going at loggerheads all the time.
Here is what he said about Republicans Saturday night during remarks to a Congressional Black Caucus event.
They want to hand Washington back over to special interests. We’re fighting on behalf of the American people. They want to take us backwards. We want to move forward.
Their main strategy is they’re betting you’ll come down with a case of amnesia, that you’ll forget what happened between 2001 and 2009, what that agenda did to this country when they were in charge. And they spent almost a decade driving the economy into the ditch. And now we’ve been down in that ditch, put on our boots — it’s hot down there — we’ve been pushing the car, shoving it — (laughter) — sweating. They’re standing on the sidelines, sipping a Slurpee — (laughter) — watching us, saying, “You’re not pushing fast enough. You’re not pushing hard enough.” (Laughter.)
Finally we get the car out of the ditch, it’s back on the road. They tap us on the shoulder. They say, “We want the keys back.” We tell them, you can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive. (Applause.) You can’t have it back. (Applause.)
This after suggesting that Republican leader John Boehner doesn’t care for teachers, police, of fire fighters.
5. If you don’t like a question, seem to answer it but don’t.
Obama Monday was mostly answering questions until he got this one at the end.
Q. Are you willing to and would you like to debate John Boehner, the House Republican leader, before the election to lay out your two visions for the economy?
Obama. I do think it is very important for the country, as we go into these midterm elections, to understand that there’s a choice in front of us . . . (blah, blah blah blah, etc. etc.) . . . I’m happy to have that debate over the course of the next several weeks and for months to come.
He’s happy to have a debate, but with no one in particular. Because a good politician would never elevate his opponent and give him that kind of publicity.
And this is a good politician.